A number of preschools and elementary schools in Ho Chi Minh City are worried about paying for interactive whiteboards used in teaching English as part of the city’s education quality improvement project.
According to the project launched by the municipal People’s Committee to improve English skills for students at local preschools and elementary schools in 2013-2014, hundreds of schools in the city have used interactive whiteboards for their teaching activities.
Schools will get 50 percent sponsorship from the government to pay for a board worth around VND180 million (US$8,472), and have to pay the remaining amount themselves from encouraging students’ parents to contribute.
Parents not willing to pay
Unfortunately trouble has arisen for the schools, especially schools in rural regions, in being able to afford half of the cost for interactive whiteboards since parents are not willing to pay.
The reasons are that only a small number of students can study with the modern device and the time for them to use it is very limited, for each school would have only a few interactive whiteboards for use throughout the whole school.
Administrators of a school in a rural area said their school has two interactive boards used by around 500 students in the 1st and 2nd grades.
The school has asked students to chip in with an amount of VND20,000 each per month over two to three years until the school pays off all the boards’ cost.
However, an English teacher of the school shared that not many can use the board in each shift.
“Each class has a 35-minute shift per week to learn with the interactive board. We can only let 15-20 students use the board if we try our best. The rest of the class has to wait until the next week for learning with the board,” he said. “Although students are interested in the modern teaching method, teachers cannot organize many activities with the board for them with such a limited time.”
Meanwhile, the principal of an elementary school in Phu Nhuan District admitted that last year his school could only pay around VND45 million, ¼ of the total amount the school has to pay within two years for the two interactive whiteboards it has received.
Many of the students’ parents refused to pay the sum of VND20,000 per student, saying they have no idea what an interactive board is.
Not only schools in rural area, but those in the downtown area have also been met the same problem in mobilizing money contributions from parents.
“Last year, many parents were angry because they contributed to pay for the device but their kids had just a little time to use it. Moreover, they prefer their kids to be more active with the real environment surrounding them than focusing on the board,” a vice principal of a kindergarten in District 1 shared.
“This year, mobilizing money from parents remains a big concern,” he added.
Inadequate teaching method
Many teachers admitted their difficulties using interactive boards for their teaching.
A teacher in District 4 said five colleagues at her school have been met with difficulties in using the board because it can only be connected to an attached computer. The teachers have to take turns to use the computer for compiling lesson plans.
Moreover, due to the limited time accessing the board, not many teachers have learned all functions of the expensive device.
Teachers also expressed that they can organize many other efficient activities for students instead of only teaching with the modern machine.
“I’m an English teacher with 20 years of experience in the field. I think interactive boards are only for creating games for students so it’s not necessary to spend such a high amount of money on them,” a teacher in District 1 said.
“There’s no way for students to be good at their studying if they only interact with the board. To learn a foreign language, students need time to interact with their teachers and friends. It would be much more efficient if we spent VND180 million a year on buying studying tools or hiring foreign teachers.”